Right now, it’s the exact same time here in Maine as it is in Michigan, which is roughly a zillion miles away. That’s because both states are in the Eastern Time Zone, us at the extreme eastern edge and them at the far western boundary.
The reason two such disparate places (Detroit has Lions and Tigers, Maine has Black Bears) got lumped together in the same zone has more to do with politics than geography (or sports teams). If lines were drawn according to the way the sun actually shines on us, standard time in Maine would be about an hour ahead of where it is. That would put this state – and much of New England – on Atlantic Standard Time, along with the Canadian Maritimes, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and part of Greenland. Which would mean we would no longer be the poorest state in our time zone.
That’s hardly the only reason bills have been introduced in the Legislature every few years to shift Maine to Atlantic time. If we moved to the same zone as our impoverished solar neighbors, we’d have a lot more sunlight in the evenings, particularly in the grim winter months. This would be good news for the ski industry, for commuters and students used to wending their way home in the late afternoon darkness, and for the lazy among us, who’d be able to sleep in on frigid January mornings without being disturbed by the rising of ol’ Sol.
If we maintained Daylight Savings Time, Mainers would also gain an additional hour of light on summer evenings to enjoy their mosquito-clouded patios and tick-infested campsites.
There are, however, some drawbacks to this idea. People who get up early in the morning – farmers, radio talk-show hosts, other damn fools with real jobs – would be forced to slog through an additional 60 minutes of darkness. Also, the United Nations High Commission On Mandating What Time It Is Where You Live Whether You Like It Or Not (motto: One of Agenda 21’s More Obscure Provisions) might require all Atlantic time residents to use Canadian hours, which (like their money) are worth only 80 percent of American hours. While this might prove valuable to hourly workers – they’d only have to labor for 48 minutes – it would also shorten vacations, TV shows and visits with your psychiatrist (although not by all that much).
Nevertheless, there’s a serious movement underway (having nothing to do with black helicopters or blue-helmeted troopers) to move our clocks permanently ahead by one hour. According to the Boston Globe, Massachusetts recently created a task force to study whether that state should shift to Atlantic time. The group is supposed to begin meeting in November’s gloom and report back by the end of July, when it will be bright enough in the evening to read its conclusions without electric lights.
Among the topics being considered is whether the Bay State should ask its New England neighbors if they’d like to join in this time warp. Contrary to what some idiot wrote erroneously a couple of paragraphs ago, this change would have to be approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Public health advocate Tom Emswiler of Quincy, Mass., told the Globe a unified approach would be helpful in clearing that hurdle.
“If we moved as a region, we might have a shot,” Emswiler said. “This isn’t going to be Massachusetts Standard Time.”
In a 2014 op-ed in the Globe, he argued that shifting to Atlantic time year round with no daylight savings – a change that would only affect us from early November until early March – would reduce heart attacks and workplace accidents, both of which show a marked increase on days after we spring ahead or fall back. He also claimed that later sunsets would help the region retain young people, who are apparently drawn like moths to places with more sunlight.
Which explains why recent college grads flock every summer to Nome, Alaska.
In his Globe piece, Emswiler concludes that if politicians and bureaucrats “follow both science and the map, they may well decide that New England should join a time zone more suited to us, not one that works for New York.”
Or, for that matter, Detroit.
I won’t zone out if you email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.